Cats Host Auburn for SEC Home Opener
Oct. 8, 2010
Cat Scratches Preview: Joker Phillips' keys to the game
Each and every week prior to a Kentucky football game, Cat Scratches will talk with head coach Joker Phillips about his of plan of attack. Without giving away too much of the game plan, Phillips will tell us his keys to the game, a key matchup and who Kentucky has to look out for on the opposing team.
Offensive keys - Get back to mistake-free, clean football: "It is crucial that we do not turn the ball over. We have turned the ball over five times (in the last two games). Most of them have turned into points for our opponents. The week befoer, we had an interception that went for a touchdown, and also we turned a ball over that was a potential touchdown for us. We have not turned the ball over a lot, just five times in the season. We still have the least amount of turnovers in the conference, but those five times have cost us points. You have to play smart. They have to understand the importance of not turning the football over. The quarterback has to understand that and go through the proper reads, and the running backs and receivers have to understand the same thing. The running backs have done a great job of securing the football. That's unusual for a team to have five turnovers and none of those coming from the running back. It has been a huge emphasis throughout the year, and we have been really good. The thing is you have one or two games where the touchdown cost you and then that looks bad. We have moved the ball well. We have scored on our first drive in all but one game. We have a lot of yardage, but the thing is we haven't always sustained the drives. There have been turnovers, and penalties, which is something you can't have in big games."
Cat Scratches' take: The formula is rather simple. In three wins, UK turned the ball over zero times and had a turnover margin of plus-four. In Kentucky's two losses, the Cats have turned the ball over five times and had a turnover margin of minus-four. The problem with the turnovers is they have cost the Cats dearly. Only one of five UK's turnovers this season has not resulted in a touchdown (one interception against Florida was run back for a touchdown, and all three against Ole Miss came in UK territory), and that one was a costly pick thrown in the other's team end zone. UK's offense, for all the unwarranted grief it has received, has actually moved the ball pretty well this season, ranking 25th in the nation with 453.6 yards per game. The key this week is avoiding drive killers: turnovers and penalties.
Cats Host Auburn for SEC Home Opener
For the second time in the last three games, Kentucky will face a top-10 opponent when the Wildcats return home for their SEC home opener with the No. 10 Auburn Tigers (5-0, 2-0 SEC).
Kentucky is coming off its second loss of the season, falling short in a comeback effort at Ole Miss 35-42. UK could not overcome three first-half turnovers against the Rebels despite two touchdowns each from senior quarterback Mike Hartline and senior tailback Derrick Locke. Hartline completed 27 passes for a career-high 300 yards and his third multi-touchdown game of the season, while Locke tied a career high in catches with eight and set a career high in receiving yards with 108. Wide receiver Randall Cobb totaled six catches for a career-high 108 yards and a touchdown.
Auburn will be making its first trip to Commonwealth Stadium since 2005. The Tigers travel to the Bluegrass State with an unblemished reacord after a 52-3 route of Louisiana-Monroe last week. Junior quarterback Cam Newton threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The Tigers have been led offensively all season by Newton as he leads the team in passing yards (928) and rushing yards (474). He leads the SEC in pass efficiency with a 191.4 rating.
AP Preview: Auburn, UK Have Versatile Playmakers
Both teams bring dangerous, versatile offensive playmakers into Saturday's showdown in Lexington, the kind of guys who can produce yards and wins in multiple ways.
Auburn (5-0, 2-0 SEC) has ridden the running and passing of Newton into the top 10. The Tigers' defense, meanwhile, is painfully aware of the challenges presented by Cobb and Locke.
Both ran for 100 yards in last year's game and they accounted for 245 of the Wildcats' 357 offensive yards. Kentucky (3-2, 0-2) was without injured quarterback Mike Hartline, leaving the offense severely limited.
The Wildcats still won 21-14, and Cobb sealed it with a late touchdown run.
"To me, they do a great job of using their personnel in the right way," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "With Locke, obviously he's a great running back. He's one of the top rushers in the league, but he'll catch eight balls a game. They just know how to get their guys the ball.
"There's challenges all over the place."
The league's No. 2 rusher, Locke is tops in all-purpose yards. Cobb is third on that list and is the fifth-leading receiver.
Newton was topping the SEC in rushing last week before offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn proved it is possible to contain him by making him stay put in the pocket against Louisiana-Monroe. Oh yeah, he can throw, too.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Newton is the nation's most efficient passer.
"He's the Byron Leftwich-type quarterback," Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan said. "He's big but he can also make up room. When you make a mistake he can pick the ball up and run. We just can't give him an inch. We can't give him room to create big plays. He does a lot of that with his feet, scrambling around making big plays. He can throw."
Newton also causes headaches in trying to find a scout-teamer to simulate him in practice. For Kentucky, that has been 6-4 reserve quarterback Tyler Sargent.
"We really don't have anybody that can simulate the type of speed that their guy has," Wildcats coach Joker Phillips said. "Just executing the offense, Tyler's done a really good job for us at doing that."
Thanks largely to those three playmakers, Auburn and Kentucky both rank in the top 25 nationally in scoring and total offense.
Newton has run for 474 yards, passed for 928 and accounted for 17 touchdowns. By comparison, there are six SEC teams yet to score 17 TDs total.
He also has a 71-yard run and a 94-yard pass. The no-run restriction placed on him against Louisiana-Monroe last weekend gave him a reprieve from the physical toll but also provided a little extra pocket practice.
"There were times in the game that Cameron could have made some better choices," Chizik said. "He was disappointed in some of the choices that he made as a pocket passer. I think that was invaluable experience. One great thing about Cameron is that he's a very smart player. He understands when he makes a mistake once the value in not doing it twice."
Auburn also has a versatile weapon in Mario Fannin, who caught 80 passes the past three seasons. He has two touchdown catches despite playing mostly tailback this season and nursing a shoulder injury the past few weeks. Fannin said this week he's 100 percent healthy.
"That's the thing I want to do this year, is to be able to help my team in both aspects of the game," Fannin said. "Hopefully, the coaches will be able to trust me in that aspect."
Newton is the main man, though. Phillips said he's one of the rare runners in the SEC who are constant threats to go the distance, like Locke.
"He's the guy that touches the ball every dang snap," the Wildcats' coach said, "so you've got to account for him."
At Kentucky, Locke and Cobb are producing a combined 339 all-purpose yards a game
Locke has run for 543 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 25.4 yards on kick returns, and he's also caught 19 passes. Cobb has averaged 9.3 yards on 13 runs, caught a team-high 25 passes and also returns kicks and punts.
Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes isn't used to seeing players hold down as many roles as Cobb.
"You don't see that at all," Bynes said. "And that's the beautiful thing about it, because he's a great athlete.
"He's just going to go out there and just keep playing every down. When you have a guy like that who gets that many touches, runs, catches a game, you know he's the kind of guy they want to get the ball to on offense if they can each and every play."